The 2023 Virginia Geologic Research Symposium

Feature photo:  Virginia Energy campus, offering impressive architectural style and good birding opportunities. My iPhone Merlin Bird ID found Pine Warblers, Northern Flickers, and Purple Finches among other more common birds.

Article and photos by FMN Stephen Tzikas

Student Posters for Presentation. This one shown is from our local GMU

The 2023 Virginia Geological Research Symposium had resumed with an in-person conference on April 21, after a couple years of pandemic virtual conferences. The 2023 meeting took place at Virginia Energy in Charlottesville, VA. This approved FMN training event brings professionals, students, and the interested public together.   Lectures are held at an undergraduate/graduated university level of knowledge. Geology is such a diverse topic, with appeal to many other types of scientists and engineers like myself.

This year’s agenda featured a diverse selection of topics of interest in Virginia. Technical Session 1 featured information on the heavy mineral sand abundance and mineralogy from paleo-placer and offshore deposits in Virginia. Such economic heavy minerals are of vital engineering importance to the United States as we transition to new technologies requiring new sources of rare earth elements.

Technical Session 2 included a stimulating lecture on the origin of nelsonite in the central Virginia Blue Ridge. Nelsonite is the Virginia State rock. Another lecture discussed preparing for the workforce, of special interest to the many students in attendance.

Nelsonite, the Virginia State Rock. The main building has hundreds of geologic specimens and instruments on display. Outside an impressive 49 large rock and mineral garden exists.

Technical Session 3 was another cross-over over session, similar to Technical Session 1, that had engineering appeal. Three lectures focused on groundwater and hydrology.

Tour of GMR Repositories and Collection. This is a one of a kind fascinating chance to see a unique geological collection.

Technical Session 4 included the investigation of lake sedimentary deposits for evidence of the 2011 earthquake in the central Virginia Seismic Zone. We all remember that earthquake.   Another lecture included geophysical mapping to improve wine quality. Who could not like that? The next time I am enjoying a glass of wine at a Virginia vineyard, I’ll be remembering all the soil science I learned from this lecture.

The Virginia Department of Energy, Geology and Mineral Resources (GMR) Program, is a world class organization, and I highly recommend attending their annual symposium if you are a professional, a student, or have an interest in geology which you would like to develop further.

The Annual Virginia Geological Research Symposium

Feature photo:  At the 2019 Virginia Geological Field Conference, our excursion group investigated the landslide damage of Hurricane Camille in Nelson County. After 50 years this mountainside is still stripped to its bedrock from the floods and landslides caused by the hurricane.

Article and photo by FMN Stephen Tzikas

The annual Virginia Geological Research Symposium is an event I enjoy attending. It is typically held in April and is approved for the FMN Better Impact continuing education requirement. It is presented at a professional level and is a conference from which one can acquire valuable knowledge if working in the associated engineering and science fields. Moreover, because it is Virginia centric and geology related, it’s a great learning venture for Virginia master naturalists.

The last couple of years the symposium was held virtually, but it normally meets in Charlottesville. It is free and hosted by Virginia Energy, Geology and Mineral Resources. This organization serves as Virginia’s geological survey. The last symposium was held on April 21, 2022. At this symposium, the U.S. Geological Survey gave a couple presentations related to the 2011 Mineral, Virginia 5.7 magnitude earthquake felt over a wide area including Fairfax County (something most of us will remember). The quake was further discussed in the context of the more recent 2020 Sparta, North Carolina 5.1 magnitude earthquake. Other presentations given by the U.S. Geological Survey included Earth MRI geophysical datasets along the fall-line in SE Virginia and NE North Carolina, and the origin of Carolina Bays in the Coastal Plain of Virginia.

The College of William and Mary had several presenters too. Topics included:

  • Age and origin of the Albemarle-Nelson mafic-ultramafic complex in the eastern Blue Ridge.
  • Structural geology and geochronology of the Shores Melange in the Piedmont.
  • Geology of the Schuyler 7.5-minute quadrangle in central Virginia and understanding Iapetan rifting, sedimentation, and magmatism.
  • Petrology, structure, and geochronology of the Oakville metavolcanic sequence and the implications for the provenance of the Smith River Allochthon.

Of particular interest to me was the landslide hazard mapping in western Albemarle and Nelson Counties by Virginia Energy. I once attended a geologic field trip to Nelson County, the location hit hard by Hurricane Camille in 1969 through the devastating flooding and landslides caused by the hurricane. Another interesting topic was on geologic storage potential in Virginia, also by Virginia Energy.

James Madison University and Radford University students made presentations too.

It is worth exploring the Virginia Energy website at The website features such links as “Ask a Geologist” and information on the geology and mineral resources of Virginia at

This symposium is a wonderful resource among many available for geology enthusiasts in Fairfax County. Others include are:

  • The Northern Virginia Mineral Club:
  • The Annual Gem, Mineral and Fossil Show at George Mason University
  • NVCC 1-day 1-credit excursions (Field Studies in Geology under GOL-135)
  • The Virginia Geological Field Conference (also with counterparts in PA, NJ, and NY)